Saturday, July 24, 2021

Review of The Collection Plate by Kendra Allen

Cholla Needles’ editorial focus reads simply “Tight work that will leave a scar on the reader,” and any fan of tight work and its scars will want to wrap themselves in the pages of Kendra Allen’s The Collection Plate. Allen has already made a name for herself in the literary world with her award-winning book of essays When You Learn The Alphabet in 2018, but her words come alive in a different way in The Collection Plate. This new collection explores race and religion, sex and liberation from the fresh perspective of a young but experienced writer.

Many of Allen’s poems are inspired by her upbringing in Texas, such as “Practical life skills,” which details the memory of a fishing trip with her father. The descriptions feel nostalgic—“ We pull up to the dock with three picnic chairs as crickets chirp”— but there’s something darker simmering beneath the surface. Take the final stanza:

In dark matter water and wonder what it would be like to live away from

A cliff then You catch a blowfish and bang its head up against the concrete

On top of the dock we watch it die You didn’t have to kill it

You throw it in an empty cooler we continue hooking I share all your names.

“You didn’t have to kill it” has a satisfying sting, and that feeling is echoed throughout the collection. Each poem is dressed in layers of nostalgia, darkness, and resilience. This is especially apparent in the poems with religious overtones, such as “Sermon notes” and the five “Our Father’s house,” poems. In each of these, she criticizes the expectations Christianity thrusts onto its followers. “Most calvaries have dead people” highlights this theme of unwilling martyrdom, where Allen writes:


like Our Father

when he gives me his issues

places them in my spine lets me,

sew skin into skin without thread

and tells me to walk

to a city where i am given something more

than a man

whose obligation is to no one, not even

the Blood


As with the rest of her work, “Most calvaries have dead people” covers a lot of ground. Allen isn’t just questioning organized religion, she’s calling out the forced martyrdom of women, daughters, and BIPOC members of society, and she drives this point home with the poem’s final line, something between a question and an accusation: “how could you let me spill all over town”.

The Collection Plate is a glimpse into the future of poetry where, unbound by restrictions of form, the poet’s message is free to flourish, just as Allen’s has. She knows how to make every word work for her, and each line of each poem could stand on its own; fresh, raw, and ready to leave a scar.  

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Kate H. Koch writes poetry, flash fiction, and screenplays. Her work has appeared in Cholla Needles, Bombfire, Club Plum & other journals. Follow her at

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Open Poetry Reading! August 4, 6-8 PM!!

Cholla Needles Open Poetry Reading
August 4, 2021 6-8 PM
The Joshua Tree Folk Stage
Bring a lawn chair for comfort!



Monday, July 12, 2021

Beate Sigriddaughter - CN Zoom Party 43!

What makes prose poetry poetry?

Beate Sigriddaughter reads from her new prose poetry book, Kaleidoscope, talks about  prose poetry, and shares some of her traditional poetry to supply a compare and contrast for us. Beate Sigriddaughter is the editor of Writing In A Woman's Voice. Recorded July 11, 2021 for Cholla Needles Zoom Party 43.

Beate Sigriddaughter - Intro

Beate reads Three Poems from Kaleidoscope

Why prose poetry for this project?

Beate reads two lyric poems
from Xanthippe and Her Friends

the difference between poetry and prose

Three more poems from Kaleidoscope

prose poetry and flash fiction

Beate closes with two poems

Click directly on book you're interested in =:-)

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Review of Tramping Solo by Fred Rosenblum

Tramping Solo by Fred Rosenblum
Fomite Press, 108 Pages

Tramping Solo tells the story of a war vet being released from the military in the insane year of 1969, when popular culture everywhere was against the military. Interestingly, Fred Rosenblum is able to manage these experiences without attempting to moralize or teach. As a writer, he prefers to simply paint a picture and allow the reader to feel the experience of one man through language. 

His images present strongly without the use of common jargon, i.e. ‘flashbacks' and ‘ptsd’: silver satanic angels with their ravaging Phantom strikes, to this very day still strafe me. Events are presented clearly and without comment or prejudice: The city snarled and bored its fangs when I came out into the street with my honorable discharge and my purple fucking heart — to be wrestled to the ground on the San Diego downtown sidewalk concrete pavement. . . or encrypted words/mantras seeping out/from the soft sponge of earth.

The story follows the vet through his travels along the Pacific Coast. The voice of the poet comes through clearly with specifically chosen imagery denoting a sense of place: a placid evening's radiant veil of embers appearing to respire on the lighted bluffs above Monterey Bay. We follow him through several years of physical duress and psychic turmoil: Unable to acquire a prosthetic psyche in Seventy-two, my pathetic character came unglued and I ramped-up my tolerance for goofballs and booze. 

Nature provides the release for both yet and reader during important transitions: the mating call of a horned owl growling at silhouettes framed on the face of a vanishing moon. . .

Also by Fred Rosenblum: Vietnumb, 2018: Fomite Press


Thursday, July 1, 2021

July Issue Released! Cholla Needles 55 =:-)


Cover Art by Comstock

The creative words within are from:

Iwuagwu Ikechukwu
Heather Morgan
James Marvelle
Toti O’Brien
Roger D. Anderson
Dora Kaskali
Kent Wilson
Dave Maresh
Greg Wyss
Bill Ratner
Jonathan B. Ferrini
Dave Benson

Friday, June 25, 2021

Review of Crazy Brave and An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo


Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo (memoir, 2012) and
An America Sunrise by Joy Harjo (poetry, 2019)

Review by Greg Gilbert

 Joy Harjo is our incumbent United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that honor. I use the plural first person, our, for two reasons. One is that America’s Poet Laureate is appointed by the Librarian of Congress of our United States, and two, in recognition of Harjo’s use of the plural first person we throughout her prose and poetry to denote community. Joy Harjo’s community is not an all-encompassing generic Native American stereotype but a multiplicity of tribes and ancestors, their songs, their connections to the earth, and their generational responses to being forcibly and violently removed from the lands in which they grew their cultures. “Within a few generations we had gone from being nearly one hundred percent of the population of this continent to less than one-half of one percent. We were all haunted” (Brave page 100).

Within both works, Harjo contemporizes how denied avenues of expression and purpose can result in self-destructive behaviors, alcoholism, drugs, and domestic violence. In Crazy Brave, Harjo alludes to the all-too-common story of men who seek fulfillment through sexual liaisons outside of marriage, who seek release through alcoholism and domestic violence; and she explores the longing for family, the larger we, and love that leads women to cleave to such men, even to their mutual devastation. To read Harjo’s poetry and prose without appreciating the range of nobility and loss her work describes is to miss the point of why she deserves to be our Poet Laureate.

A personal delight that I take from her words concerns their reverence for a luminous realm experienced by the very young, the very old, and most of us in instants of revelation. If there is a common theme among most native tribes, it is a celebration and respect for the spiritual realm and its place in the natural world, and this is why the first-person plural is vital. The we of Harjo’s tribes and the we of Harjo’s America are an entwined WE the people of this earth and our shared duty to its preservation and to one another. Harjo reminds us that we must quiet ourselves and open to the silence that gives us life, what she refers to as “The Knowing.”


  The earth is leaning sideways
  And a song is emerging from the floods
  And fires. Urgent tendrils lift toward the sun.
  You must be friends with silence to hear.
  The songs of the guardians of silence are the most powerful—
  They are the most rare. (from “Singing Everything,” Sunrise page 48)


Likewise, in Crazy Brave, Harjo writes that “because music is a language that lives in the spiritual realms, we can hear it, we can notate it and create it, but we cannot hold it in our hands” (Brave page 8). To her credit, Harjo, at age 40, took up the instrument that she was denied as a child because of her gender, the saxophone by which she can give expression to her love of the blues. Harjo is a 21st Century woman with deep roots of loss and longing. Among her early memories is her love of “radio, jukeboxes, or any magic thing containing music” (Brave page 7). She writes of hearing Miles Davis before she knew the words jazz or trumpet. She heard the stomp dance music, heard the workers singing in the fields, and she heard her mother singing in the house. “It is her song that lit my attention as I listened in the ancestor realm” (Brave page 8). In her poem, “Becoming Seventy,” Harjo speaks of “Becoming old children born to children born to sing us into / Love.” She tells us to “Sing the blues to the future of everything that might happen and will. All the losses come tumbling” (Sunrise pages 83-4). And on page 88, she writes of slavery and offers this poignant observation, “Only war ships. For freedom, freedom, oh freedom sang the slaves, the oar rhythm of the blues lifting up the spirits of our peoples whose bodies were worn out, or destroyed by a man’s slash.”

And most wonderfully, she asks, “Who sings to the plants / That are grown for our plates? / Are they gathered lovingly In aprons or arms?” (Sunrise page 93). We are reminded by her of our alienation from the very sources of life and, thus, from ourselves.
         Throughout her works, Harjo searches out justice for the ancestors, for the earth, and all of its peoples. She sees the folly of our coming and goings while herself on a journey that she translates through her poetry. She reminds us not to forget our roots. In a powerful prose poem, she washes her mother’s body.

I felt sadness as grief in her lungs. The grief came from the tears of thousands of our tribe when we were uprooted and forced to walk the long miles west to Indian Territory. They were the tears of the dead and the tears of those who remained to bury the dead. We had to keep walking. We were still walking, trying to make it through to home. The tears spoiled in her lungs, became tuberculosis.       
She exists in me now, just as I will and already do within my grandchildren. No one ever truly dies. (Brave page 93)

                As for our human endeavors, “Nobody goes anywhere though we are always leaving and returning. It’s a ceremony. Sunrise occurs everywhere, in lizard time, human time, or a fern uncurling time” (Sunrise page 86). Throughout her writings, Joy Harjo joins her present generation, our generation, as the door to memory. “The knowing always spoke softly, wisely” (Brave page 49), and so do the words of our Poet Laureate.

Joy has also edited two anthologies of First People's Poetry recently:

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

New Book! Kaleidoscope by Beate Sigriddaughter


Kaleidescope is a collection of prose poetry.

Imperfect Flute

She knows how it should sound, clean, jubilant, a jeweled riff of rapture. It doesn't sound like that. Not yet. Perhaps it never will. She plays anyway.

Words are my passion, and with many wise folk before me, I believe that they are a significant tool for building a world of sanity, honor, and peace. I am especially passionate about having women’s voices, heard, read, and validated in our off-kilter world. - Beatte Sigriddaughter

Beate is the author of many novels, collections of poetry and other writings. Her most recent poetry collections are Emily (2020) and Dancing in Santa Fe (2019).

Click here to see on-line review by Matt Paust.